In a post election email sent to campaign volunteers, executive Director Jenn Brown made one part of those future plans abundantly clear… Battleground Texas may be bruised, but here to stay.
Tuesday was not the result any of us wanted. The national headwinds were stronger than anyone thought, and Texas got swept up in it. But I hope you’ve got your head held high today, because we’re just getting started and there’s plenty of exciting work to do.
The email was not a solicitation for more funds, but actually a request from volunteers to provide feedback on how they thought the organization performed in its first major campaign. I already provided feedback to the email, but also wanted to share those same thoughts, with just a bit of expansion, on the blog.
As ‘the new kid in town’, it’s no surprise that a lot of excitement surrounded Battleground Texas. But all the excitement in the world could not compensate for what proved to be BGTX’s biggest hurdle in 2014… being new, and unfamiliar with the Texas voting landscape. Instead of forming a support network around existing local organizations, it seems that BGTX chose to mostly go it alone. This lack of any coordinated strategy often lead to repetitive outreach efforts to the same voters, or missing critical voters altogether. In a year filled with so much general voter apathy, everyone knew it was going to be tough to make a difference at the statewide level, but these novice mistakes made the disparity even more apparent.
Criticism aside, BGTX had much to be proud of during this election cycle. Though the turnout goals were not achieved, at the end of the day there are now more Texans registered to vote than any mid-term year in state history. Building organization of over 33,000 volunteers was certainly no small feat, and a true testament to the vast potential for making Texas into a swing state. Better yet, those volunteers are now connected to more people right in their own communities that care enough actualize around important issues.
Organization is a skill that can be applied far beyond just particular candidates or elections. Building momentum around issues like raising the minimum wage or equality is just as important, if not more so than political aspirations. Battleground Texas should “keep going” in off-election years. Even if it is just a bi-monthly service project like a health fair, community garden or an immigration law workshop, BGTX has room to grow and join the true fabric of the state. No one is going to awake the “Silent Majority” overnight. But now that we’ve lived through an election, the real work can begin.
On the political campaign side, 2015 presents a vast opportunity with local races. BGTX leaders should be working with local candidates because they are the ones that know not only the needs of their communities, but also how to best engage them. All of these strategies carry into the next.
Organizing in the digital space is important too. How are those in the 33,000 member volunteer base supposed to connect with each other after the latest campaign ends?? Much of this work can be done through a more website that contains forums, a community page to post events and ways for people that care about common causes to find one another. A better, more comprehensive web presence would be another step in the right direction.
Ask any of the greatest politicians to ever live. If Bill Clinton had given up after being ousted as Arkansas Governor in 1980, he wouldn’t have ascended to the Presidency just 12 years later. Barack Obama knew the sting of defeat in 2000 when he lost out on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he didn’t give up. The greats take a defeat, and learn from it. BGTX has been introduced to Texas, but now is the time to truly become part of Texas. Once that happens, the Lone Star state will have some real contests at the ballot box, and beyond.
Congratulations to all the staff members and volunteers with Battleground Texas. We finally have some real battle scars.
UPDATE: BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown has published a letter to supporters via the Battleground Texas website. In it she addresses next steps for the organization and what they will be doing to move forward, including reaching out to people to find out why they didn’t vote. It looks like internal feedback is simply the first step.